January: Bromeliads. New Year fireworks can't hold a candle to the hot reds, yellows, pinks, whites and purples of blooming Guzmania bromeliads. They are part of a diverse plant family that includes pineapples and rootless air plants. Guzmanias each bloom once for a few months and then produce offshoots called pups that grow into new plants. Find the Bromeliad Society International at BSI.org.
February: Orchids. Phalaenopsis, or moth orchids, have become a regular February fixture, vying for Valentine's Day attention in grocery stores, right next to the cut-stem roses also from South American growers. Choose stems with flowers in bud stage; you'll be rewarded with weeks of emerging exotic blooms. Bright filtered light and weekly watering without leaving the roots in standing water keeps them growing. There are more than 20,000 species to choose from. Check out the Mid-America Orchid Congress at Midamericanorchids.org.
March: Oxalis. Commonly called "shamrock plant" because its three-lobed leaves look the part, oxalis appears in stores before St. Patrick's Day each year. I keep a large pot of these little bulbs growing year-round, bringing them indoors for the winter. Leaf colors vary from rich purple to green patterns such as "Iron Cross." Spikes of charmingly delicate flowers rise above the leaves, which fold up at night and unfurl in indirect sunlight. Check them out at Easytogrowbulbs.com.
April: Rabbit's foot fern. Rabbit's foot ferns (Davallia fejeensis) are natives of Fiji in the South Pacific. The ferns take their name from the fuzzy brown rhizomes that look like rabbit paws dangling over pot edges. The lacy, triangular fronds are a rich deep green. Perfect for hanging baskets in north- or east-facing windows, they respond well to a light misting and to regular watering in rich, well-drained soil. Break off and root pieces of rhizome with a frond attached to share with friends. Find more about ferns at American Fern Society, Amerfernsoc.org.
May: African violets. Classic, compact windowsill denizens, little Saintpaulia violets, native to Tanzania, bear a multitude of delicate, frilly flowers above velvety leaves. The blossom and leaf colors and patterns are mind-boggling. They like it sunny and warm, watered from below to avoid wet leaves, and well-drained. The African Violet Society of America lists sources and information about its 2014 convention, May 25 to June 1, at AVSA.org.
June: Sansevieria. Long, 3-foot-tall fibrous blades with sharp tips have led to Sansevieria trifasciata's more common name, mother-in-law's tongue. It's one of the easiest houseplants for beginning gardeners to grow, and it's known for its air- purifying abilities. With Sansevieria's distinct long, vertical leaf shape, it's an interesting architectural element in room décor. Move plants to a sunroom or outdoor patio with mottled light, and it might reward you with a spike of blooms.
July: Golden pothos. The golden days of summer hint at the ease with which golden pothos (Epipremnum aureum) allows gardeners to succeed in growing gorgeous foliage. This vine's variegated heart-shaped leaves of green and gold twine around columns or dangle from hanging baskets. It grows fairly well in low light, is touted as a good air purifier and tolerates erratic watering; pothos is a good choice for offices settings.
August: Aloe. Aloe vera is well known as a soothing ingredient in lotions. The plants themselves are succulents that release a slippery liquid from broken leaves, which is thought to relieve painful burns. Aloe likes bright, indirect sunlight and an easily drained soil mix suitable for succulents and cacti. A fun hybrid called "Flow" is a cross with Gasteria verrucosa; the resulting foliage looks like curving green warty tentacles. Search Exotic Angel Plants at Exoticangel.com for details on this and more than 400 other houseplants.
September: Aglaonema. Recognizing Aglaonema, or Chinese evergreen, is sometimes a challenge, because this plant's leaf colors and patterns are so diverse. Who needs flowers when the leaves are so bright? They have pink, red, purple, silver and white veins and splashes. The plants do well in low- or medium-light areas, with air on the humid, warm side and soil moist but well drained. It grows about 3 feet tall.
October: Kalanchoe. Perfect for harvest festival color, the orange, gold and deep red hues of Kalanchoe blossfeldiana's masses of little flowers brighten a fall day. The flowers almost overwhelm the soft, fleshy foliage beneath. Place the plants in a warm, south-facing window to catch some winter sun, and then place them outside in indirect summer sunlight. This is a popular plant in box-store floral departments. It makes a great substitute for cut-flower bouquets.
November: Bay tree. Shiny evergreen bay, or Laurus nobilis, leaves are well known for adding pungent aroma and flavor to stews and sauces. Native to the Mediterranean, it crowned heroes' heads in ancient Greece and Rome; bay trees find contemporary use in holiday wreaths and as topiary. During summer, grow it outside in pots that can be moved indoors for the winter; choose sunny locations and well-drained soil. Resources are at Herb Society of America's website, Herbsociety.org.
December: Norfolk Island pine. Although this conifer is not a real pine tree, Araucaria heterophylla is sold in retail outlets as a little potted Christmas tree during the holidays. Native to Norfolk Island in the South Pacific, it can't survive cold winters outdoors in the United States. With proper treatment, the 8-inch-high specimen you buy this year could reach 5 feet in about 10 years. Bright, indirect light, moist but well-drained soil, and careful, infrequent transfers to a stable, larger pot are recommended. See more at the American Conifer Society, Conifersociety.org.